This should not come as a surprise to anyone: the Washington Post is criticizing the U.S. Catholic bishops (again!) for their forthright and very determined stance to fight the Obama administration's declaration that the Catholic Church and other faith groups must now offer employer-provided health insurance that includes coverage for services that violate its moral teachings.

In a March 12 opinion column in the Washington Post, "Tea Party Catholicism," E. J. Dionne Jr. worries that the bishops will "junk the Roman Catholic Church as we have known it, with its deep commitment to both life and social justice," by standing up against what the Church considers an all-out assault on religious freedom.

Isn't that ironic? The Post, which has criticized the Catholic Church on everything from how it handled the sex abuse crisis to its all-male clergy to its opposition to same-sex marriage, is now concerned about us Catholics. If they've not liked us before, how can they now be worried about the Church remaining "as we have known it?" Given all the past criticism, you would think that they would not want us to remain "as we have known it."

This Post opinion piece offers just another attack under a different guise.

The Post is once again slamming the U.S. bishops for not accepting the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate and subsequent "accommodation" that would require faith-based institutions to offer employer-provided health insurance coverage for abortifacients, sterilization and contraceptives.

The "accommodation" that is touted as fair and wonderful would still require Catholics - directly or indirectly - to pay for those services.

The Post opinion piece throws out three questions. I would like to answer them.

1) "Is [the Catholic Church] abandoning its historical style of being a leaven in society to become a strident critic of government?"

No, it is not abandoning its style of being a leaven in society. Leaven is a rising agent that lightens a product, such as bread. The Catholic Church, through its bishops, is precisely acting as a leavening agent by calling on society to rise above political expediency and cultural shifts to do the right thing, even when it is difficult. It is acting as a leavening agent by calling on the government not to toss aside the guarantees of the First Amendment, even when that goes against political gain and popular opinion.

2) "Have the bishops given up on their conviction that there can be disagreement among Catholics on the application of principle to policy?"

No, Catholics still have that conviction. But, neither have we given up on the conviction that the government has no right to define Catholic teaching, or mandate that the Church violate its beliefs. This has nothing to do with disagreement among Catholics. This has everything to do with telling the Catholic Church on which side of the argument it has to be.

3) "Do they now believe that there must be unanimity even on political strategy?"

No, we do not believe that. What we do believe is that there be unanimity on what the Church holds true and sacred and holy, as taught by our bishops. It is not up to a government agency, the winds of current social thought, or a popularity contest to determine for us what is to be believed or not.

It matters not to our critics whether this HHS mandate goes against what the Church teaches. It matters not that it would force the Catholic Church to violate some of its most deeply held convictions. The real issue to the Washington Post seems to be, in their view, those mean old bishops who just want to be contrarian and who want to rain on everybody else's parade and who want to force their way-out-of-date thinking on society as a whole. Oh, and let's not forget, the Post's portrayal of the bishops' alleged disinterest in the health of women. The bishops, who have supported health care reform for decades, don't consider preventing births through abortion-inducing drugs or sterilizations or contraceptives to be health care. Dionne's latest column in the Post calls the bishops "most extreme" and "right wing" and like the "Tea Party at prayer."

Following the lead of the Obama administration, which had the audacity to tell the bishops which of the Catholic Church's teachings are acceptable and worthy to follow, the Post now lectures the bishops about their lack of support for the HHS mandate. Get with it you bishops, the Post basically says, because the Catholic Health Association supports the HHS mandate.

The CHA's acceptance of the mandate may be a good enough seal of approval for the administration and for the Post, it is not good enough for the rest of us.

Let's get this straight: The Catholic Health Association is not the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Health Association is not to whom we turn when we have questions of faith and morality. The Catholic Health Association does not have the sacred and ordained duty to act and instruct in communion with the Holy Father and all the bishops of the Church.

Only the bishops have the right to speak to what the Church teaches. It is the responsibility of the bishops to assure that the true, one, holy faith is presented undiluted and untainted to the faithful. It is not the Catholic Health Association, but the bishops of the Church, who determine what is and is not in accordance with Church teaching.

I, for one see, scandal with the CHA and publications like America magazine taking it upon themselves to go against our bishops and speak for the Church or to approve or disapprove in the name of the Church. Those actions have led to confusion among the faithful.

And those actions have led to the Obama administration and the secular media to take it upon themselves to tell the bishops how to manage the Church.

It is vital that we recognize that the bishops' rejection of the HHS mandate and "accommodation" has nothing to do with some secret plot to outlaw contraception or outlaw abortion. It is not about the Church forcing its beliefs on others. It is about the government overstepping its bounds and telling the Roman Catholic Church - founded by Christ Himself - what it should and should not teach.

It is shameful that more Catholics are not up in arms about this. Our bishops are being attacked, our Church is being attacked and the secular media asks that American Catholics join in that attack on our own faith or at the very least to shut up and stand by while it happens.

Neither of those options are correct. We must stand with our bishops, supporting them and encouraging them in the arduous task that is before them. We must stand up for our Catholic faith and say, "While there may be disagreement among us on some issues, we are united in the belief that no government can tell us what we should or should not believe." It is the government's frontal attack on religious freedom that threatens "the Roman Catholic Church as we have known it" in our United States.